August/September 2016 - Vol. 87
 the armour of God
Our Protection in Spiritual Warfare.
by Michael Harper

Every Christian needs protection from enemy attacks, especially those engaged in violent spiritual warfare. The history of how man has gone to war down the centuries is largely a story of weapons improving in their potency, and armour increasing in its protectiveness. And Christians are vulnerable to attacks from the enemy, and need the means to protect themselves. There are places and situations which Christians should not enter into recklessly or without the proper safeguards. In cases where exorcism is necessary, it is best to work with a partner. It is significant that Jesus always sent His disciples out in pairs, and the apostles mostly had a partner with them on their missionary journeys.

The armour of God
The classic chapter on protection is Ephesians 6. Paul uses the armour that the Roman legionaries used to illustrate the means of protection that God has provided for the Christian. It is very important at the outset to grasp the fact that this is not our armour, but God's, given to us to protect us. It is not our righteousness, or our faith, or our gospel which can stand in the evil day. It is God's provision alone which will give us adequate protection. If we see this simple but profound fact it could well make all the difference between victory and defeat. And in a sense all the pieces of armour, when combined together, are Christ Himself. Elsewhere Paul does urge his readers to "put on Christ" (Galatians 3: 27). He is our Protector.

Notice too that we need to put on this armour before the battle. A fairly elementary point, but sometimes overlooked. It is no good waiting until the dart is on its way before holding up the shield of faith.

One of the best ways of considering the pieces of armour is to see them as protecting us from various points of attack, thus enabling the enemy's blows to glance off us and not penetrate. So with each piece we shall list the particular form of attack, from which the armour protects us.

The girdle of truth
Form of attack - lies and errors. Satan has been a liar from the beginning and is the father of lies, Jesus tells us (John 8: 44). The first attack he made on man took the form of a lie" you shall not die", Satan said, in defiance of the fact that God had clearly said they would if they took the forbidden fruit. Someone has helpfully summarised the truth as-"God is what He says He is; I am what God says I am; God does what He says He will do; I can do what God says I can do." Satan is always causing us to doubt these statements. "God can't be a God of love"; "God can't really be in control of the universe"; "I'm too sinful to be a child of God"; "My old nature can't possibly be dead"; "God can't save me from this predicament I'm in"; "I can't do it", and so on. And Satan has always twisted and perverted the word of God.

One of the favourite forms of attacks on Christians is false accusation. He is called in Revelation "the accuser of the brethren", and he accuses us continuously before God (Rev 12: 10). He will never get God to believe these lies about us, but it is surprising how many of God's children are taken in. One of the most common complaints amongst Christians is self-despair, and far too often it comes from believing what Satan says about us rather than God. The armour to meet this attack is "the girdle of truth". When falsely condemned we declare the truth - "there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Rom 8: I). But we need to discern between the pricks of conscience, given to us by the Holy Spirit, and the nagging accusations of Satan. Here a "good and honest heart" is needed. Whilst we should always be open to correction by the Holy Spirit, let us not hold the door open so wide that we let Satan's accusations in too.

Equally powerful these days seems to be the maligning of God's character by Satan. How many Christians one meets who do not believe that God really loves them! As Job won through, when all the circumstances pointed in the opposite direction, and was able to say "blessed be the name of the Lord", so we too will be helped to see disasters when they come as "blessings", rather than listen to the slander of the devil. In a very subtle way the serpent in the garden of Eden represented God to Eve as One who did not really care for her or her husband. As Satan continuously works against us so we must put on "the girdle of God's truth".

The breast-plate of righteousness
Form of attack - evil and sinful desires.
If Satan cannot pierce our armour by lies, he will try evil. He will bombard our minds with evil thoughts; he will try to influence our motives and sway our wills. The answer to this is - God's righteousness, not our own! How many have tried to ward off these blows with the flimsy armour of their own goodness. Satan's arrows pierce it immediately. But, if we are Christians, we have God's righteousness to defend ourselves with. Then let us wear it like a piece of armour. Evil thoughts are not sin until they are entertained. They are like gate-crashers at a party; we can accept them and let them stay, or firmly show them where the door is. That is what we must do when Satan attacks us with evil - show Satan the door. That is enough. Satan cannot pierce the armour of God's righteousness. He may bruise us, but he cannot wound us.

The sandals of the gospel of peace
Form of attack an easy and lazy life. If Satan cannot disturb us, then he will try to make us as comfortable and cosy as possible – so that we won't disturb him I He will stop his attacks and sue for peace, but on completely unacceptable terms for a Christian. "Leave me alone," he will say, "and I will leave you alone." We dare not parley with Satan. The early Christians would not have been persecuted had they stopped their evangelism. But they suffered at the hands of the Jewish authorities because they refused to do so.

It is all too easy to fall for this subtle attack of the enemy, and go along with "carpet slipper Christianity". Some today are "at ease in Zion", journeying to heaven in first-class comfort. Satan has seen to it that such Christians have laid down their arms, and are no longer concerned to attack and invade enemy-held territory.

The answer to this form of temptation is to get our shoes on, leave the comforts of home, and go out after those who are Satan's captives. This is probably what Paul means here. Ronald Knox translates these words, "in readiness to publish the gospel". And it is the gospel of peace
– for the only real peace that can be found in this world is through surrender to Christ, who is the Prince of Peace. And this is what the devil will do all in his power to stop. We need to remember that Jesus showed us that God's love is so great that He will always leave 99 per cent of the flock to rescue the 1 per cent. Should we not leave the 1 per cent to rescue the 99 per cent?

The shield of faith
Form of attack 
– unbelief. Paul himself wants his readers to be especially careful to have this protection. "Above all", he writes. For unbelief in its various guises is the most formidable kind of attack, and the shield of faith is the most important part of the gospel armour. The tense of the verb implies a constant and unflinching attitude of faith. Martin Luther knew this vicious form of attack on many occasions, and knew that the only protection was through faith in the promises of God. He writes somewhere out of deep conviction:
The soul that clings to the promises of God with a firm faith is so united with them, altogether taken up into them, that it not only shares in all their power, but is saturated and made drunk with it ... If a touch of Christ healed, how much more will this tender touch of the Spirit, this absorbing of the word, communicate to the soul all things that are the word's.
This is where our faith needs to be placed – firmly in the promises of God. In the epistle to the Hebrews the writer refers to the sin which "clings so closely". It is very likely from the context that the writer has in mind the sin of unbelief, for the previous chapter is taken up with the theme of faith, and the great men and women who so truly exemplified it. Christians are to "lay aside" this besetting sin. No wonder Paul describes these attacks as "flaming darts". We all know what it is to be wounded by these
fearful weapons of Satan. We know the doubts that assail us, and the fear of failure that cripples action.

"Is God really hearing me?" "Has He forgotten me?" "Has it worked?" "Will it last?" and so on. Easy isn't it to have 90 per cent faith and only 10 per cent doubt!

An excellent example of the word of God being spoken aloud, and so bringing someone to faith, may be seen in the life of Barclay Buxton. During his missionary work in Japan he was attacked by fear in this way. So he said repeatedly aloud the words from Hebrews 13:5-6, "he has said, 'I will never fail you nor forsake you'. Hence we can confidently say, 'The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid; what can man do to me?'" He said these words until by faith he had made them his own, and so can we.

The only answer is the shield of faith. And remember this is not our puny faith, but God's strong faith. Paul calls it "the faith of the son of God" in Galatians 2:20. We are holding up the faith of Christ between ourselves and those fiery darts. Such faith is inpenetrable armour. The shield that Paul is probably thinking of here was the one the Roman legions carried into battle. It covered them from head to foot-but not their backs. There was no allowance made for deserters, says Corrie ten Boom.

The helmet of salvation
Form of attack – calamity and accident. The word salvation (soteria) is used in the New Testament to describe physical as well as spiritual well-being. For instance, it is used to describe the strength gained from eating in Acts 27: 34, when Paul urged the sailors to have a meal before their ship came ashore on the island of Malta. In Hebrews 11:7 it is used to describe how Noah and his family were saved from drowning in the flood. According to Souter it was commonly used of "deliverance from every calamity, and victory over enemies".

Satan will not stop at anything to destroy the work of God. He will make Christians ill. How often we read in the Journals of John Wesley how nausea and faintness came upon that great man before he was to preach. But he would carry on, sometimes barely able to climb the steps of the pulpit. But the moment he began to speak, the sickness would pass away. The enemy was defeated in his attempt to prevent the gospel from being preached. How often Christians languish ill in bed, when they should be resisting the devil's attacks and about their Master's business!

Satan will sometimes try to kill God's servants. Jesus said of him, "he was a murderer from the beginning" (John 8: 44). He tried to kill Jesus on several occasions before the divinely appointed time for that death. Once He was miraculously saved from mob violence, and on another occasion from drowning in the lake of Galilee. But Jesus survived in order to finish the work that the Father had sent Him to do. And we should expect the same protection until the moment comes when we can echo the words of Jesus, "I have finished the work which you gave me to do."

Of course there will be times when God allows death by violence. There was the case of Stephen, the first Christian martyr, whose career seemed to be so full of promise. Satan must have been glad to see him removed so quickly from the scene of his triumphs. But little did he realise that standing by was Saul of Tarsus, who was so obviously deeply affected by what he saw of the sufferings of Stephen, and who was before long to become an even more effective evangelist. But we need to beware of the attacks of Satan. The roads, for instance, are becoming increasingly dangerous. We should always pray before setting out, claiming the protection of the name of Jesus - and also that our driving will be skilful and unselfish. So let us put on the "crash-helmet" of salvation as well as our seat-belts.

The name of Jesus
We have already seen in the chapter "Our Weapons", how Christ's name is a real power in spiritual warfare. We noticed that the name of a person in the Bible means the entire person. When, therefore, we talk about the protection of the name of Jesus, we do not mean that there is something magical about the word, and that it is protective in itself. No, the name of Jesus means the protective power of His presence and all that He is today because of all that He did on the Cross. As Proverbs expresses it, "the name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe" (18: 10).

This form of protection was bequeathed to us by our Lord, when He prayed for the Church before He went into the garden of Gethsemane. "Holy Father, protect by the power of thy name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are one. When I was with them, I protected by the power of thy name those whom thou hast given me, and kept them safe" (John 17: 11-12 NEB). And our Lord still keeps us safe through His powerful name.

There are some who regard the blood of Christ as protective. But in the Bible the blood always answers to the guilt of sin - that is why it is always Godward. The two scriptures, which some use as the basis for the protective nature of the blood, also bear this out. In the story of the escape from Egypt, the blood which was daubed on the door-posts and lintels of the Israelites was for God to see, not the devil! "I will pass over you" says God (Exodus 12:13). The other reference is Revelation 12:11. "They conquered him (Satan) by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony." Here Satan appears in the context as "the accuser of the brethren". The blood, therefore, in this verse is protective against guilt.

The value of the name of Jesus is that it combines the efficacy of His death with His resurrection life. It means "Saviour"
– and refers to One who is alive for ever, and raised "far above all". It is the living Christ who protects His people – standing by them and working with them. But it is Christ who shed His blood and died on the Cross. Without the shedding of blood there would have been no remission of sins or power over Satan. In this sense, the blood of Christ is an indispensable part of our salvation, and, therefore, of our protection.

The angelic hosts
In the general scepticism within the Church today, in which the supernatural has been debunked, the presence and value of angels is seldom if ever recognised. Like the servant of the prophet Elisha, we need to have our eyes opened to the protective ring of angels, which is at all times around God's
people. As the Psalmist says, "the angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and delivers them" (34: 7).

In the Acts of the Apostles angels seem to be as much in evidence as their satanic counterparts, the evil spirits. They seem to be specialists in jail-breaking, for twice they manage to get the apostles and Peter out of prison. They also helped in directing God's plans in evangelism. It was an angel, for example,
who directed Philip to the desert of Gaza to contact the Ethiopian eunuch. When Paul was in danger of losing his life in a storm at sea, it was an angel that reassured him. If the demonic powers have not given up the struggle and returned to hell since New Testament days, are we to imagine that the angels are less powerfully present than they were in the days of the apostles of our Lord?

In the epistle to the Hebrews we are told about people who have "entertained angels unawares" (13:2). Much of our thinking about angels is conditioned by artists' impressions of them. One would not have thought there was much chance of modem man entertaining such angels (wings and all) without being aware of it I We may never know whether or not we have actually seen such angels, but the fact of their presence should be comforting. We are not to attempt to communicate with them, and should remember that Satan can disguise himself as an angel of light.

With God's protection, and wielding His weapons, we can enter confidently into warfare with Satan.

[This excerpt is from Spiritual Warfare: Defeating Satan in the Christian Life, Chapter 8, © 1970, 1984 by Michael Harper. The book was originally published in 1970 by Hodder and Stoughton, London, UK and by Logos International, Plainfield, New Jersey, USA, and by Servant Books, Ann Arbor, 1984. An online version of the book is available from the Harper Foundation at:]

Michael HarperArchpriest Father Michael Harper (1931-2010) was a world-renown leader in the charismatic renewal movement. He was a minister in the Anglican Church for 40 years. He joined the Eastern Orthodox Church in 1995, and was appointed Archpriest of the Antiochian Orthodox Deanery of the UK and Ireland. 

He and his wife Jeanne formed the Fountain Trust in 1964, which organized charismatic conferences all over the world at which he addressed thousands of people. Jeanne co-edited the songbook, Sound of Living Waters, which is still used by many charismatic churches today. Harper also founded Soma (Sharing of Ministries Abroad), which was committed to sharing ministries between the developed and developing world. 

He was involved for many years with the World Council of Churches. He spoke at several Catholic meetings. He met Popes Paul VI, John Paul and John Paul II. 

He also edited Renewal, the longest-established charismatic magazine in the world. He wrote 18 books, including the bestseller Equal and Different, which set out his views on women’s ordination and the gender debate. Colleagues remember him as a man with the ability to build friendships across the Christian traditions. A gentle and humble man, Harper was nevertheless a dynamic speaker and networker, able to draw people in, whatever their background or differences from himself. He is survived by his wife, Jeanne.

Some of his books and articles are available online at:
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